Unlicensed Pilot Said He Knew Enough to Fly

HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) -- The unlicensed pilot accused of taking a drunken joyride in a stolen airplane said Friday that he had enough training to fly the plane and never meant any harm.

Philippe Patricio, 20, of Bethel, Conn., appeared in Harrison Town Court two days after he startled guards at the closed and darkened Westchester County Airport by dropping from the sky at about 4:15 a.m. in a Cessna four-seater with two buddies and a number of empty beer cans.

The measure of alcohol in his blood was twice the limit for drunken driving, Westchester authorities said. They said he had seven hours of student flight time and no license.

As a handcuffed Patricio entered the municipal building Friday, he was asked about his training and said, ''I had enough to operate the plane.'' He also said, in Portuguese to a reporter from his native Brazil, ''I didn't mean to hurt anybody.''

Patricio is accused of stealing the $52,000 plane from the Danbury Municipal Airport, where he once took flying lessons and may have been employed.

There were no injuries, but officials have said the apparent lax security at Danbury is unacceptable in an age of terrorism. Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has ordered state homeland security officials to inspect the security of every airport in the state.

Officials said Patricio and two 16-year-old friends, who have not been charged or publicly identified, flew around for about three hours before landing on a taxiway rather than a runway at Westchester, about 25 miles from Danbury.

He was charged with criminal possession of stolen property and reckless endangerment. His attorney, Edwin Camacho of Danbury, did not enter a plea and did not ask for bail Friday, so Patricio was returned to the Westchester County Jail.

Police in Danbury said they were weighing additional charges.

Camacho said he would eventually seek to get Patricio out on bail, but needs time to investigate ''the details of what happened and why.''

Asked about his client's spirits, he said, ''not good. He's obviously in a difficult situation.''

The complaint says Patricio ''admitted he had been drinking'' when he was arrested and had watery eyes and a disheveled appearance upon landing. It said he knew he was low on fuel and did not have permission to take the plane.

Town Justice John Voetsch said the aircraft, a single engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk that had been seized by Westchester police, could be returned to its owner, the Arrow Aviation flight school of Danbury, since neither Camacho nor prosecutor Russell Smith objected.

Smith mentioned in court that Patricio had a ''rap sheet,'' but did not elaborate. Rita Adler, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, said Patricio's criminal record, if any, could not be made public.

However, The News-Times of Danbury reported that Patricio pleaded guilty last week to a 2004 reckless driving charge and the case file was sealed after he enrolled in an alcohol education program. In a pending case, it said, he was charged last month with speeding and driving under the influence and pleaded innocent.

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